Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Polenta Baked Eggs and book review

The first part of this post is by Aaron, who made dinner while I was at school meetings this evening.

The last recipe from Smitten Kitchen Every Day is quite an easy, filling, tasty comfort food, and it’s vegetarian…polenta baked eggs!

I’ve not really worked with polenta like this before – I’ve used it in a couple of things, but haven’t actually boiled it in water. I was surprised at how much it thickens.

There’s nothing too tricky with this recipe – bring some water to a simmer, stir in the polenta, cook for about 15 mins, then add corn kernels and cook a bit longer, then season, add cheese (I used Costco Mexican blend), and sour cream.

After the sour cream is mixed in (the recipe says to mix it to just before it is all mixed in – something I didn’t read until AFTER I had mixed it in…oops), you pour the mix into an oiled baking pan. Following this, you mix in spoonfuls of tomato paste – Jen pulled out a can of tomato soup we’d had in the cupboard for ages to use instead, which worked nicely, although perhaps made the mixture a little runnier than usual. With it being a bit runnier, it was a little hard getting the eggs into the holes you make for them (the holes started filling in as soon as you  made them), and I also doubled the recipe so that added to the amount of mixture.

Eight eggs into holes later, I was ready to season a little more, then sprinkle with some more of the Mexican cheese, and pop it in the oven. You know the dish is ready when the egg whites are cooked. Thanks to our funky oven, that’s a bit of a gamble, and I ended up overcooking the eggs. I think it would have been a lot nicer with runny yolks, but it was still yummy.

A couple of things I’d do differently next time would be to not stir the sour cream in until after you’ve poured the mixture into the baking dish, and possibly use canned tomatoes or maybe semi-dried tomatoes, so you get more of the tomato flavour into it (it was mostly lost for me). But overall – a very easy dish, very tasty and just a bit fancy.

Smitten Kitchen Every Day has been a fun book to explore. There are some recipes in there that are quite unique that were definitely worth trying, regardless of how much we loved the result, because it taught techniques or ideas that we otherwise wouldn’t have tried. The olive oil shortbread in particular is something that I do want to try again, but Deb’s recipe left me wanting more crumbly, melty goodness than I got. The sticky toffee waffles were similarly brilliant in concept, the taste was good, but the texture wasn’t quite right. Whether that can be tweaked by toasting the waffles or just making pancakes with the batter will have to wait and see.

While there are still a few more recipes I’d like to try, I must admit that this is not a cookbook I would own. I don’t think it will be a return to again and again with family favourites like some of the other books from the Food52 Cookbook Club have. That being said, I’m glad that I’ll be able to check this book out again from the local library to try my hand at those baked bacony beans and the halloumi and vegetable roast especially.

To see the other two recipes I’ve tried from this book click on the links below:

The Fearless Baker: Drop Biscuits and book review

Today we created something perfect. I was torn with what to bake today for my third and final recipe from The Fearless Baker for the month, should I make the Lemon Buttermilk Glazed Loaf or some scones?! Then I looked in the fridge and noticed we had no cream but didn’t want to commit to an hour of oven baking, so I flicked through some more and came across Erin McDowell’s Drop Biscuit recipe. And ding, ding, ding – we have a winner!

My favourite scone recipe is Date and Lemon Scones that Gary Mehigan made on MasterChef Australia in its first year. The addition of lemon zest just does something to the date flavour that makes it so much richer and I love cracking one open hot out of the oven and slathering it in butter before devouring. So when I saw in the headnote that Erin’s mom would add dried fruit, nuts or chocolate chips to the biscuits, I straight away declared we’re going to try these with dates and lemon zest.

The process was so simple. We chucked the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, bicarb soda and salt into the food processor and pulsed it, then added the cubed butter and mixed until it resembled breadcrumbs. At this stage we added some lemon zest and the dates, the blades chopped them up for us, while the dry mix insured they wouldn’t puree. Lastly we added the wet ingredients that had been mixed together, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and mixed until the dough just came together.

Scoop them out with 1/4 cup measure onto a lined baking sheet and sprinkle them with raw sugar and ours baked in a moderate oven in 15 minutes.

Don’t they look gloriously golden and crunchy on the outside?! Inside they were soft and warm and flecked with bits of dates. I am so happy with this recipe that I don’t think I’ll go back to my Masterchef scone recipe ever again, especially since I ALWAYS have buttermilk on hand, but rarely have cream.

This book has been so fun to bake from and there are still many recipes I’d love to try – especially her pies and her cakes (including the lemon buttermilk loaf I mentioned above). There are also some raspberry ripple bars that have been calling to me and the peanut butter and jelly whoopie pies. Oh and the butterscotch blondies! Really the list could go on.

Erin’s flourless cocoa cookies I declared as the best naturally gluten free cookie I’ve had. These biscuits are incredible, and the madeleines were my first successful attempt! There’s also a peach pie that I will post about soon that was absolutely stunning.

I did have an incident in December where I *tried* to make the salted caramel swirl meringues and they failed miserably. The caramel sauce itself was good, but I think the weather was too temperamental to be baking meringues successfully and it just ended up one big flat swirly disc – there’s no photo because it was that bad. I turned it into a trifle with some stone fruit and whipped cream, but by the end of that dish, I didn’t want to look at another meringue for a long time. So I doubt I’ll try it again.

This is definitely a book worth picking up, it’s very approachable for the novice baker, but also has some recipes that look more challenging. I love Erin’s sense of humor, especially in her description of the different pastry decorating techniques. This is definitely not the end for this book on my blog – but from here on it’ll be relegated to Throwback Thursday.

To see the other two recipes I’ve tried from this book click on the links below:

Baking: From My Home to Yours: Coffee Caramel Pots de Creme and book review

I made some friands yesterday which left me with 5 egg yolks to use and I still needed to try one more recipe from Baking: From My Home to Yours for the month so it was the perfect time to make pots de creme!

I’ve made one of Dorie’s pots de creme recipes in the past (not sure which book it came from) and loved it, so thought this should be a rather simple task for extraordinary results. Well…I’m not sure this has been my week cooking wise, because I’ve had an unusual amount of trouble.

First when I combined the sugar and the coffee in a saucepan and stirred to get the sugar to melt and caramelize, the coffee started burning badly. So I had to scrap that and start again. For my second attempt, I just chucked the sugar into the saucepan until it turned into caramel, then I added the coffee and the warm milk/cream mixture. The caramel immediately seized so I had to bring it back up to boiling to get the caramel to separate from the coffee. Then from there I set it aside to infuse for 20 minutes and completed everything else as per the instructions – adding egg yolks, eggs, and the remaining sugar, creating the water bath, baking in a low oven. Pretty standard stuff.

The result…well it’s nice but we didn’t really get the caramel flavour, the coffee completely overtook the dessert. Which is not a bad thing, but not what we were looking forward to. Would I make these again? Definitely, but I wouldn’t use the coffee method that Dorie recommends. I’d just add some instant espresso to the milk/cream mixture. There’d be a whole lot less coffee wastage that way (it ended up being 2 cups of beans which is absurd for 6-8 dessert cups).

Baking: From My Home to Yours is an excellent book for the home baker. It has a wealth of different types of baked goods to choose from and all the recipes I’ve looked at seem very approachable and with good results (apart from my disappointing lack of caramel flavour in the pots de creme). I am glad I added this book to my cookbook shelf.

There are still many recipes I’d like to try from the book, and I’m sure I’ll be back with more recipes from it on Throwback Thursdays. If you want to join in on the fun, check out the Food52 Baking Club Facebook group and you’ll also get a chance to see what other bakers have done this month. I love this group,  especially given the access you get to cookbook authors – Dorie commented on my cinnamon squares yesterday! It’s a lot of fun.

To see the other two recipes I’ve tried from this book click on the links below:

Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Boeuf Bourguignon with Buttered Peas and book review

For the final recipe of the month, I chose Julia Child’s famous Boeuf Bourguignon. Because we still don’t have our oven fixed (I know, right!) I adapted it with help from this recipe so we could use our slow cooker instead.

It’s a long recipe, but no part of it is difficult. You chop up an onion and a carrot and the beef and you cook them in some oil and butter, then chuck them in the slow cooker with herbs and beef stock and red wine and cook them for 8 hours on low. Then about an hour before it’s done, you cook the mushrooms and onions (and the boiled potatoes) separately to bring together at the end of the cooking time.

The only trouble we had with cooking it this way is that at the end of the cooking time when we drained the liquid to put in a pot to reduce for a sauce, there was still SO much liquid left. Like none of it had evaporated at all. This wasn’t too much of a problem, it just meant that it took longer to get the sauce we were after.

I stirred the boiled potatoes in with the meat and other vegetables, because to be honest, I’m not a big fan of boiled potatoes and figured this would be the best way to give it more flavor and make it more palatable to my taste.

We served it with buttered peas from the book, adapted again by using frozen peas and cooking it in the microwave. I couldn’t be bothered shelling peas and cooking them another way, and these were really scrummy and seem to have become a regular side dish for us at the moment.

It seems strange to try to review Mastering the Art of French Cooking based on only 4 recipes. What I can say is that everything we’ve made has been fabulous, and that each recipe is very comprehensive. I appreciate the nostalgia of the book, and love the cuisine, but wish that we had done this at a different time of year since I live in Australia and it is the middle of a hot summer. I’m sure that I’ll return to the book in the colder winter months to try out a lot of the recipes that the Food52 Cookbook Club members in the Northern Hemisphere were making that looked delicious, but for me, I really wanted to try a variety of recipes and savoury, but everything summery seemed to be eggs and desserts. The only criticism I have is the lack of photos. I understand why this is, but when you’re working from just a recipe title and most are in French, photos would make it much easier to browse and choose things to cook.

To see the other two recipes I’ve tried from this book click on the links below:

Bouchon Bakery: Mille-feuille and book review

I was a bit apprehensive to make mille-feuille. I had no idea if re-rolling the scraps of puff pastry left over from the pithiviers would work and how the assembly of the dessert itself would work given the summer weather. But I pressed ahead and it turned out successful.

I rolled the puff pastry dough out to the size of a cookie sheet and baked it weighted down with another cookie sheet and a baking pan for over an hour. Since the bottom element is out on our oven, I’ve found that the cooking time and temperature are a lot closer to what recipes suggest (normally I would’ve burnt something to a crisp if I cooked it per the book). I used the leftover creme patisserie from the pithiviers as well, and mixed it with a simple French buttercream to create a mousseline. This was frozen in my 9×13″ pyrex casserole dish to ready for assembly. It was then as *simple* as cutting the pastry into 4 slices and the mousseline into 3 and sandwiching them together. I had a lot of help from Aaron at this stage because he has much better knife skills then I do. Getting the mousseline layered on the pastry proved challenging as it was warming up too quickly, but we worked it out by doing some fancy flipping over and back again. Then we just piped some whipped cream on top (cream whisked with vanilla and icing sugar mixture).

I loved how the dessert is flipped on its side to make it easier to cut. No mousseline seeping out the sides this way because you aren’t squashing it all together as you cut it. And it is incredibly delicious. We couldn’t fault it. If anything, I may have been tempted to add some passionfruit to the top, but that’s the Australian vanilla slice lover in me looking for that. It was absolutely perfect!

Bouchon Bakery cookbook has been a lot of fun to explore but there are a few real drawbacks for me. I understand how this is from a professional bakery, but a lot of the recipes do not translate to a home cook very well because of how much is leftover after you make a recipe that you either need to use in something else or chuck out. And the weighing of the eggs – like it is seriously aggravating. I was 5 grams off on an egg yolk measurement and had to crack into another egg just to get the tiniest bit out. I ended up using that egg as the egg wash for the pithivier, but still, I found it most unsatisfying to have to do this for each recipe.

That being said, everything I’ve made so far has been delicious, and the other recipes I’ve seen in the Facebook group have me wanting to make even more. Highest on my list are the cinnamon honey scones. Everyone has been making them and they sound and look amazing! I also still have a pate sucree in my freezer to use up, and I’ve been eyeing off the lemon meringue tart for a while now. So you’ll probably see a bit more of this book in future Throwback Thursday posts. For now, I’m planning how on earth I’m going to narrow down Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours to three must try recipes for next month!

To see the other two recipes I’ve tried from this book click on the links below: